Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series

Editorial note:

Much of this information on infant care reflects the Victorian period that Charlotte Mason lived in; today, more is known about the need for infants to have their cries attended to. For more information, read this Harvard Study about infants' needs, as well as Dr. Palmer's article about crying and stress, and Dr. Spock's comment about spoiling babies. --LNL

At the time Charlotte Mason was writing, the trend in infant care was to use detachment methods to encourage early independence of babies.

Luther Emmett Holt Sr. (1855-1924) was the most prominent American pediatrician of his time. His book The Care and Feeding of Children, first published in 1894, was a worldwide bestseller and advised that mothers take charge and follow a schedule in order to instill habits and create an isolated, self reliant baby.

Dr. Benjamin Spock was parented under Holt's methods: "Spock was the oldest of six children. His quiet, self-effacing father was a lawyer. But it was his mother, the beautiful, intelligent, and coldly puritanical Mildred Stoughton, who most shaped his life. He described her as a 'very moralistic, excessively controlling' woman who habitually grilled her offspring about their potentially vile daydreams and deeds. Many of this imperious woman's ideas of motherhood sprang from a book, Dr. Luther Emmett Holt's The Care and Feeding of Children, which identified well-being with proper diet; a zealous disciple, Mrs. Spock banned 'dangerous' foods, like bananas, from her house, and also insisted her children spend the night -- both summer and winter -- outdoors on the sleeping-porch. Under such strictures, young Ben grew shy and insecure."

Holt was the leading childcare expert and the general advice of the day matched his. There was concern about infant mortality in that time in England, not just in the slums where 13 people would live in one tiny hovel, but in rich families where babies had rooms of their own, were bottle-fed according to the latest scientific recommendations, and the most well-read parents were advised not to handle their children or play with them much for fear of indulging them.

Since then, there's been more research on the importance of touch, such as Harry Harlowe's experiments with rhesus monkeys. Since Charlotte was always one to incorporate the most up-to-date scientific findings in her own mindset, it is reasonable to think that she would have changed this section on infant care. Everything she advises for older children matches more closely with the current childcare authors who suggest more care and understanding than rigid authoritatianism.


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